Chocolate – more than just a guilty pleasure! Researchers discover a new health-benefit of your favourite dessert
We all love chocolate, and it turns out we have good reason to. Rich in flavonoids and theobromine, chocolate is known to have positve effects on the circulatory system, lowering blood pressure and protecting against cardiovascular diseases. But that’s not all! Read below and find out what recent research has brought to light about chocolate.
Peripheral vascular disease, also known as peripheral obliterative arteriopathy is a circulatory disease, often affecting the lower limbs. It usually targets people over 70, but there are factors which can increase the risk for PVD in other age groups as well, such as smoking, dyslipidemia, obesity and hypertension.
PVD affects one’s ability to walk, causing pain and fatigue, and preventing sufferers from walking long distances.
A small pilot study investigated the effects of chocolate on elderly patients suffering from this condition. It was observed that for 14 men and 6 women, aged 60-78, consuming small amounts of dark chocolate helped them walk further than they usually could, without taking a break.
Participants were tested on different days, using a treadmill before and after they had consumed 40 g of dark or milk chocolate. After eating dark chocolate, test subjects were able to walk, unassisted, around 13 metres and 17 seconds more than before. However, no improvement was noticed when milk chocolate was used.
The researches, who published their study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggest that certain substances in cocoa, called polyphenols, may lower oxidative stress and improve blood flow in the peripheral arteries of the legs.
Patients who had consumed dark chocolate had higher nitrogen oxide levels, which improves circulation, and signs of oxidative stress were diminished.
Keep in mind though that the chocolate used in the study contained 85% cocoa, whereas the milk chocolate, which was ineffective as far as research is concerned, contained less than 30% cacao.
So, when your sweet tooth is getting the best of you, make sure you pick out chocolate with as high a cocoa content as possible.